Unabridged column Run&Bee published in Hindustan Times on 29th September 2019

Week 66: Fit and active doctors inspire confidence in their patients

“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” This quote by Maya Angelou is one that all medical professionals and health care providers should never forget. 
A couple of weeks back I helped Dr Raju with shoe shopping.

A couple of weeks back I helped Dr Raju with shoe shopping.

When across the table sits a doctor who looks unfit, it is ingrained in the patients mind that she or he is being attended by someone from the illness and sickness industry, not health care.

Unfit doctor doesn’t inspire enough confidence in that sick patient who had come with all the hope to get back to life again.

The outcome suddenly looks gloomier than it actually is. Patients accept they are doomed.

Today’s medical science research agrees that moderate exercise is the most important advice along with better dietary and sleeping habits, to be given by doctors to all their patients. Leave alone lifestyle diseases like Diabetes and Heart diseases, even 50% of most cancers are preventable if you just follow the above. 

It was Sushruta, father of Indian Medicine, who is known to have been the first physician to have prescribed moderate daily exercise. That was 1500 years ago. About a century later, Hippocrates of Greece, was the first to have written exercise prescription. Hippocratic Oath is attributed to him, the oath of ethics that all students swear upon graduating from medical college. Then where did we lose it all?

Dr Raju Easwaran, a Sports Surgeon, who as a medical student did very well, opens up about his journey back to finding his new self. 

Dr Raju Easwaran, a Sports Surgeon

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Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.
— Mike Tyson

Medicine is a tough profession. Putting in 10-14 hours per day of academic work to get selected in a prestigious medical college leaves you with little to no time for personal development through activities life fitness, sports & exercise. There is always the reassuring thought that “I can always exercise once I get selected”. After securing rank 12 (DPMT) in the year 1994 & walking through the prestigious curriculum of Maulana Azad Medical College in New Delhi, I had precisely this enormous feeling. 

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Life in a medical college is hard and I very quickly found myself putting in the same effort for survival and not to excel as I had done for the entrance exams. Five years of medical college and a year of internship just flew past me in a blur when I found myself starring down the panel of another entrance examination for getting post-graduate education. 

Yet again putting in those same effort helped me get selected to the prestigious Central Institute of Orthopaedics (Safdarjung Hospital) after securing the 19th rank in the post graduate entrance examination. Again the same thought “now finally I will find time to exercise & get in shape.” Alas as the English proverb goes “ History repeats itself”. 

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Orthopaedic surgical residency of 3 years & senior residency of a similar duration made life at medical college seem like a “walk in the park”. Personal events like marriage came along & time seemed to shrink & there seemed to be no time or reason to exercise. The vagaries of a private Orthopaedic practice in a megapolis like Delhi is daunting for most young clinicians. You always struggle for fame & recognition & the process of continuously acquiring skills in your chosen field, sports surgery in my case, leaves you with little time to do anything else. All this time you continue to eat, often at odd times & often not the healthiest of foods & the weight kept on ballooning.

Unless you add the one hour of exercise to your day, you will always find excuses not to do it. Exercise is initially felt as a waste of time; it causes a bit of pain and discomfort initially.
— Dr Raju Easwaran
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Finally, at the ripe young age of 40 after crossing a century in weight, I made up my mind. Enough is enough! With the guidance of a college friend, who is an accomplished body builder, I set out on an exercise program. After having dropped out of similar endeavours multiple times in the past, both of us didn’t have high hopes. In combination with healthy mindful eating, strength training and running, 5-7 days per week, for 60 mins per day, I finally brought my weight down to a respectable number. I now realize where I had gone wrong. I never gave priority to exercise.

Now I step back & look at myself, I feel exercise has taught me more than any medical textbook ever could. Being a sports surgeon, I am able to better connect with my patients especially athletes who perform at elite levels.
— Dr Raju Easwaran
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Some exercises like a loaded barbell squat can be quite a crushing & character building experience. Of course the daily compliments I get on my new found physique & youthful looks  fuel me on. As doctors I feel that our community should lead by example.

Let’s stop flaunting our gold medals & flaunt our biceps instead.
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